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The Best GoPro Alternatives in 2021

By Dave Dean Cameras2 Comments

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Until just a few years ago, if you wanted an action camera, you bought a GoPro. Thanks to good technology and better marketing, the company completely owned the market.

Recently, however, dozens of other companies have started making cameras that compete heavily on price and features. For many action camera buyers in 2021, especially those on a budget, picking one of these GoPro alternatives is a better option than buying the brand name version.

Picking the right model isn’t straightforward, however, and that’s why we’ve put together this buying guide. There’s often a big difference between cameras priced about the same, with a lot of garbage at the low end and high cost not always a guarantee of quality.

Whether you’re just after a cheap but good GoPro knockoff, a high-quality version for shooting 4k video, a specialized action camera for diving, or simply want the best-value action camera on the market in 2021, we’ve got you covered.

Best on a Tight Budget: Dragon Touch Vision 3
  • Battery Life: Up to 90 minutes
  • Max Resolution: 4K/30fps
  • Water Resistance: 98 feet (30m)

Sale
Best Value for Money: Akaso V50 Pro
  • Weight: 2.9 ounces
  • Battery Life: Up to 90 minutes
  • Max Resolution: 4K/30fps
  • Water Resistance: 98 feet (30m)

Best for Shooting 4K Video: AKASO V50 Elite
  • Weight: 2.8 ounces
  • Battery Life: Up to 90 minutes
  • Max Resolution: 4K/60fps
  • Water Resistance: 130 feet (40m)

Sale
Best for Divers on a Budget: AKASO Brave 4
  • Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Battery Life: Up to 90 minutes
  • Max Resolution: 4K/24fps
  • Water Resistance: 98 feet (30m)

Best for Flexibility: Insta360 ONE R
  • Weight: variable
  • Battery Life: Up to 70 minutes with standard battery
  • Max Resolution: 5.7K/30fps
  • Water Resistance: 16 feet (5m) standard, 195 feet (60m) with dive housing

Sale
Best for Kids: VTech Kidizoom Action Cam 180
  • Weight: 7.7 ounces
  • Batteries: 4 x AA
  • Max Resolution: 640x480
  • Water Resistance: 6 feet (2m)

Best on a Tight Budget: Dragon Touch Vision 3

Dragon Touch 4K Action Camera 16MP Vision 3 Underwater Waterproof Camera 170° Wide Angle WiFi Sports Cam with Remote 2 Batteries and Mounting Accessories Kit

With even the cheapest GoPro Hero model starting around $200, it’s hard to believe you can get anything decent for under a third of that.

While there’s a lot of junk in the sub-$100 action camera market, search hard enough and you’ll find the occasional diamond in the rough. Right now, the shiniest of those diamonds is the Dragon Touch Vision 3.

Given its specs and what comes in the box, this little camera is quite the bargain. You get HD video at 60fps or 4k recording at 30fps, 16MP stills, and waterproofing to a very respectable 30m/98ft with the bundled case. Wi-Fi is built in, which lets you transfer footage and control most settings via the mobile app.

The Vision 3 ships with a pair of batteries rated at up to 90 minutes each, and a grab-bag of mounts that let you attach it to helmets, skateboards, handlebars, and more. You’d pay extra for all of these accessories when buying most other action cameras, making Dragon Touch’s offering even better value.

Of course, some compromises have been made to hit this camera’s aggressive price. Color saturation and image detail aren’t particularly impressive, especially in low light, and you’ll get much smoother video when shooting in HD than in 4k mode.

The 170-degree lens provides an extremely wide viewing angle, but that comes at the cost of barrel distortion (ie, curvature) at the edges. The mono sound recording isn’t the best and can be quite muffled, a common problem with cheaper devices. That’s less of an issue than you might expect, though, since the focus with these sorts of cameras is usually on the visuals.

Overall, with good lighting and a steady hand, this camera can deliver very usable footage both on land and under the waves. If you’re looking to try your hand at action photography and video but don’t have much money to spend on it, the Dragon Touch Vision 3 is the perfect place to start.

Pros
  • Very low price
  • Wide range of bundled accessories
  • Good waterproofing with included case
Cons
  • Video quality could be better, especially in 4k
  • Sound recording can be muffled
Buy on Amazon

Best Value for Money: Akaso V50 Pro

AKASO V50 Pro Endless Summer Special Edition Action Camera Touch Screen 4K30 Waterproof Camera EIS and Wi-Fi Remote Control Sports Camera

While you can get a perfectly passable camera like the above Dragon Touch model for under $50, spending a bit more gets you something considerably better.

Our top value pick is the Akaso V50 Pro, which shoots video at up to 4K/30 fps, takes stills at 20MP, and has a variety of hardware and software features that lift it above the rest of the budget camera pack.

There’s a diving mode that compensates for the loss of red light underwater, and the inbuilt image stabilization does a decent job of reducing judder from vibrations and shaky hands. Battery life is standard for this type of camera, at around 90 minutes.

You can quickly switch between four viewing angles, from narrow to super-wide. This is something we’d like to see more often in low-cost cameras. Picking a narrower field of view helps avoid the barrel distortion that’s a hallmark of many action camera videos. There’s also a Distortion Calibration setting to help compensate for this issue.

Video quality is generally good, although colors can appear a little artificial or washed out if you’re not shooting in bright conditions. If you’re looking for 4K/60fps, though, you’ll need to go for the “SE” model discussed below.

Akaso makes an optional clip-on microphone that plugs into the USB port on the side of the camera that’s a welcome addition, especially since the inbuilt mic isn’t particularly good. If you plan to capture usable sound to go with your video, particularly voices, plan to spend a few extra bucks on the mic as well.

To sweeten the deal even further, Akaso throws in a range of accessories. There’s an extra battery and dedicated charger, a wrist-mounted remote control, several different mounts, and a waterproof case that’s rated down to 30m/98ft.

There’s also the usual Android and iOS app support, connecting to your phone over Wi-Fi for controlling settings and transferring files.

Pros
  • Great value for money
  • Wide range of bundled accessories
  • Good waterproofing with the included case
  • Extra features versus similarly-priced competitors
Cons
  • Colour accuracy not the best, especially in lower light
  • Sound recording not great with internal mic
Buy on Amazon

Best for Shooting 4K Video: AKASO V50 Elite

AKASO V50 Elite 4K60fps Touch Screen WiFi Action Camera Voice Control EIS Web Camera 131 feet Waterproof Camera Adjustable View Angle 8X Zoom Remote Control Sports Camera with Helmet Accessories Kit

As impressed as we are by the AKASO V50 Pro, there’s one thing it doesn’t excel at: 4K video. If you want better 4k footage without spending a fortune, you’ll need to go for the V50 Pro Elite instead.

While most specifications are the same as the V50 Pro, there’s one big difference with the Special Edition: it can record 4K video at 60fps. There’s electronic image stabilization when shooting at 4k/30fps and below, and if you want to shoot stills with it, the 20MP sensor does a better-than-average job.

You’ll get good color and detail from both video and still images, although a high-speed microSD card is vital for best results when shooting video at 4K/60fps. The camera won’t let you start recording at that setting if the card can’t handle it.

The camera feels surprisingly well-built, and there’s a bright 2″ touchscreen, Wi-Fi support, and a vast range of mounts and accessories included in the box. There’s up to 8x zoom, controllable from the camera, and you can even use basic voice commands to start video or take a photo.

So what’s not to like? Not much, really. The camera isn’t natively waterproof, unlike the GoPro models, although it does come with a waterproof housing rated to 40m/130ft.

While you’ll get a few nice features like diving mode and wind noise reduction, you won’t get most of the fancy hardware extras like GPS, accelerometer, and gyroscope that GoPro includes. In all honesty, though, the majority of action camera buyers don’t need the data those sensors provide.

Overall this is a solid GoPro competitor for a lot less money, and is worth a very close look if you’re planning to regularly shoot 4k video.

Pros
  • Impressive specs for the money
  • Good video quality, even in 4k
  • Voice control
  • 8x zoom
Cons
  • Audio quality could be better
  • No water or dust-proofing without the case
  • No image stabilization at 4k/60fps
Buy on Amazon

Best for Divers on a Budget: AKASO Brave 4

AKASO Brave 4 4K 20MP WiFi Action Camera Ultra HD with EIS 30m Underwater Waterproof Camera Remote Control 5X Zoom Underwater Camcorder with 2 Batteries and Helmet Accessories Kit

Action cameras are ideal for diving, and it’s the main way I’ve used mine over the years. Unless you’re underwater all the time, though, it’s hard to justify the cost of a GoPro just for that purpose.

Fortunately there’s no need to spend that kind of money, with good alternatives available that’ll handle the needs of most recreational divers for a whole lot less cash. The AKASO Brave 4+ is the prime example, an inexpensive little camera with a bunch of diver-friendly features.

It’s essentially a slimmed-down version of our top value pick, the AKASO V50 Pro (above), with many of the same features. Basic image stabilization is included, as is control of the viewing angle from narrow to super-wide.

There’s still a big range of mounts and accessories thrown in, including the wrist-mounted remote. The remote isn’t waterproof, unfortunately, so you’ll still need to use the camera’s buttons to change settings underwater.

At roughly 90 minutes, battery life is enough to get through even the longest dive. Since there’s a second battery and an external charger included in the box, you can always charge one battery from a power bank back on the boat while using the other one inside the camera.

You don’t get great 4k video, however (footage is much better in HD) and image stabilization is better on some of AKASO’s other models. If those are important to you, it’s worth dropping the cash on either of the V50 Pro versions we mention above.

If not, then save your money. At under $100, the Brave 4 is easily one of the best cheap GoPro alternatives for divers.

For those needing even better waterproofing, the dive housing for the Insta360 ONE R (below) is rated to 60m / 195 feet. You’ll pay considerably more for it, but since that depth is well beyond recreational SCUBA limits, you can be certain the camera can handle even your deepest dives with ease.

Pros
  • Low price
  • Wide range of bundled accessories, including spare battery and charger
  • Good waterproofing with the included case
Cons
  • Video much better in HD than 4k
  • Sound recording adequate at best
Buy on Amazon

Best for Flexibility: Insta360 ONE R

Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition – Action Camera & 360 Camera with Interchangeable Lenses, Stabilization, IPX8 Waterproof, Touch Screen, AI Editing

Insta360 has been one of the more innovative camera companies in recent years, and nowhere is that more evident than with its ONE R action model. Battling with the ongoing desire to add more features and flexibility without increasing the size, Insta360 went down the modular route, with impressive results.

The best-value version of the ONE R is the “Twin” edition, which includes both a 5.7K 360-degree lens and a 4K wide-angle lens that you can switch between depending on what you’re trying to shoot. If you’d prefer a camera with a high-end 1-inch, 5.3K sensor, no problem: there’s a module available for that as well, or you can buy it right off the bat.

Want a bigger battery pack, additional lens protection, or a dive case that extends the standard 16-foot water resistance out to a full 195 feet? No problem, they’re all available as extra accessories if you need them.

The camera software includes a bunch of different modes to enhance your shots, including Night Shot for low light conditions, Starlapse for impressive time lapses of the night sky, hyperlapses, HDR photo and video, and plenty more. It generally works well, although the occasional bug does pop up here and there.

Of course, all this flexibility isn’t much use if the quality of the stills and video isn’t up to standard, but fortunately that’s not the case here. While the GoPro Hero 9 Black is objectively better at both, the difference isn’t great, and casual users are unlikely to notice. What they will notice, however, is the price: you’ll pay less for the Twin edition of the ONE R than for the 360 version of the GoPro by itself.

Image stabilization generally works well with the ONE R, and you may even be able to get away without a gimbal unless you’re really throwing the camera around. Audio recording is also impressive with the two built-in mics, but if you want to use a pro-grade external microphone instead, there’s a 3.5mm socket for that purpose.

The companion app for desktop and mobile operating systems is full of extra features, stable, and reliable. That’s fortunate, since you’ll need to use it whenever you want to edit or pull footage off the camera: you can’t just move the files across.

Overall this is an ambitious experiment from Insta360, an experiment that has largely paid off. If you’re after a flexible action camera that combines the best bits of multiple other devices while costing noticeably less, the ONE R should be very high on your list.

Pros
  • Unique modular design
  • Quality video and still images
  • Impressive audio capture
  • Well-priced for what it offers
Cons
  • Quality not quite as good as the GoPro equivalents
  • Occasional software bugs
Buy on Amazon

Best for Kids: VTech Kidizoom Action Cam 180

VTech KidiZoom Camera Pix, Pink

Do you have young kids who’d like to film their own adventures? Not prepared to spend a whole bunch of cash to let them do it? Check out the VTech Kidizoom 180.

The bright design and simple controls are suitably child-friendly, while the ruggedized case protects the camera from both damage and water up to 6ft deep. The lens rotates through 180 degrees, so it can be used for both selfies and more traditional video.

A pair of mounts are included in the packaging. One’s for use on bike handlebars, while the other attaches the camera to flat surfaces like skateboards and helmets. A small amount of storage is built-in, but you’ll likely want a microSD card for extra capacity.

The non-removable battery lasts up to two hours. It charges via the included micro-USB cable, which is also used to upload photos and video to a computer.

Don’t expect your child to shoot an Oscar-winning masterpiece with the Kidizoom 180 (the 640×480 sensor is the same resolution as old camera phones from the early 2000’s) but it’s fine for getting started, at a price that’s very hard to beat.

Pros
  • Very inexpensive
  • Rugged, child-friendly design
  • Mounts and waterproof case come as standard
Cons
  • Video quality very low
  • Battery isn’t replaceable
Buy on Amazon

Title image via farioff, other images via Amazon

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    You missed the Apeman A80, also not a bad model a d cones in between £60-£80.

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